Educational and Community stations are being left out in theCold!
H.R. 5496 was tee'd up for a vote [on Oct. 1, 2002]. The bill was
simple: provide webcasters a si- month stay of the royalty fees so that
stations could have their day in court. This bill would allow
all stations a six month stay of the rates, but was proposed as
a means to protect small business.
The RIAA rallied the troops, calling upon all the artists unions and
associations (AFTRA, AFM, RAC, etc.) the RIAA opposed the bill. The
problem is that the RIAA is afraid that the courts will find that the
decision of the Librarian of Congress determination on rates will not
Thus, the unions were called in. The unions made enough noise on the
hill to call into question the passage of H.R. 5496, which was
sponsored by James Sensenbrenner. Sensenbrenner, afraid of defeat,
pulled the bill and told webcasters to come back to him with a
negotiated settlement, by Friday [Oct. 4]. This settlement would become
The problem with this, is multifaceted. First, the pressure is being
put on commercial webcasters to negotiate a deal, while no equal
pressure is placed on the RIAA. Next, college and community
broadcasters are left out. Plain and simple, they have not even been
placed on the same playing field as commercial entities, which are at
best on an uneven playing field.
This is a complicated issue. That is another important part of the
"game" being played right now. Many on the hill don't know what
Internet radio is and how it differs from file sharing. All the RIAA
has to do is tell Congress that webradio is stealing from artists and
the hill agrees, because they don't want to be seen as anti-artist or
anti-union, particulary when the union agrees with big business, the
RIAA. Who is left of a casualty of the crossfire, the stations that
offer diversity, alternatives and an education. Big business wins
So, even if there is a deal struck, under duress, by the commercial
webcasters, who is left hanging in the wind? The stations with the
smallest resources, college and educational stations, as the "deal"
sought by Congress places no burdens on the RIAA and does not
specifically include a provision for Educational and Community
College stations do not oppose paying a royalty fee, if a court decides
that one must be paid. College stations do not want to hurt artists,
rather they want to continue to promote artists and pay a reasonable,
fixed fee, like they currently do for composers.
Even the RIAA has agreed to a fixed fee structure in their privately
negotiated deal with NPR stations, yet they oppose one with stations
with far less resources. Why has this fact been ignored by Congress
and, more importantly by the Copyright Office, which was instructed by
Congress to consider all negotiated agreements?
It is plain and clear, the educational opportunities of this country
come a distant second to profit. This is a short sighted solution to a
complicated problem that needs to be addressed. Congress must mandate
that Educational and Community stations be involved in the negotiations
or alternately be offered the same opportunities as the CPB/NRP.